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Access to Governmental Microdata for Research: Recent Developments and New Challenges in Europe

Presenter 1
Paola Tubaro
Reseau Quetelet, France
Presenter 2
Roxane Silberman
Reseau Quetelet, France

Official microdata constitute a major source for research in the social and economic sciences and for public policy evaluation. The paper provides an overview of similarities and differences in conditions of access to governmental microdata for researchers in European countries, placing emphasis on recent changes and trying to identify directions for future development. Regarding anonymized datasets, focus is on limits that often remain despite a generalized improvement in availability, and on unevenness of access conditions across Europe. On confidential data, the paper examines challenges arising from the recent upsurge in researchers' data demand, and discusses some possible solutions, including safe data centres on the premises of statistical institutes, secure virtual data laboratories accessible through the Internet, and an enhanced role for data archives at the national and European levels. These solutions are diverse in terms of easiness, cost-effectiveness, and extensiveness of access. Dealing with these problems, and experimenting with innovative solutions, requires an appropriate legal framework. In this light, the paper draws attention to recent changes in the law of European countries and examines whether and how they have opened new possibilities for microdata dissemination. Special emphasis is placed on the cases of France and the United Kingdom.

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